Helping Everyday Kids Succeed in Extraordinary Circumstances
SEALKIDS supports children in the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community. Through grants to families, the national nonprofit helps kids who are struggling in school, whether because of learning disabilities, grief, anxiety, or emotional stress caused by a parent being deployed. The small staff of five to seven full-time employees coordinates and pays for assistance including personalized academic tutoring, therapy, learning and cognitive testing, services addressing learning disabilities, and help for parents from legal and educational advocates.
Rapidly growing after supporting 12 kids its first year, SEALKIDS found the number of children it could help limited by funds raised and the team’s grants management capacity. Its grantmaking and administrative processes were time-consuming. In-person fundraising events engaged supporters locally but did not accelerate giving quickly enough to fund impact on a national scale. SEALKIDS implemented Nonprofit Cloud and Nonprofit Success Pack starting in 2017. With help from Pro Bono volunteers, the nonprofit has built out its integrated platform, automating and streamlining its grantmaking processes, and expanding its donor base.
72%increase in children assisted annually over the past 5 years
$265.8Kraised in 2020 via webinar fundraisers
99%increase in donors between 2019 and 2020
How Can a Small Team Scale Its Impact?
Twice a year, SEALKIDS invites NSW families to apply for assistance for children who are struggling academically.
Applicants go through a multi-step process: Each case must be evaluated for eligibility. A Family Advocate gathers additional information regarding the child’s needs, including their grades in school, results of any previous testing and evaluation, and information about health concerns. Then the Family Advocate introduces the family to pre-screened service providers, such as tutors, therapists, and health experts, in their geographic area. Once the family has chosen a provider and the child begins receiving the agreed-upon services, the Family Advocate remains available to them as a support and resource. The service provider invoices SEALKIDS, which pays them directly.
At the start of the nonprofit’s implementation of Salesforce in 2017, this whole process was very time-consuming, requiring members of the small team to perform numerous tasks manually.
To fund its work, SEALKIDS relied on a core group of several hundred donors. It held mostly in-person fundraising events, including an annual gala. This approach engaged supporters locally but did not accelerate giving quickly enough to fund impact on a national scale.
Salesforce is so reliable in making sure that we can track our goals and meet our goals in a really easy, step-by-step way…. SEALKIDS could not operate without Salesforce.” Dr. Gretchen McIntosh, Executive DirectorSEALKIDS
Integrating Systems for Improved Efficiency
Following its initial implementation of Nonprofit Cloud, SEALKIDS has progressed in automating and integrating its grantmaking processes. Dr. Gretchen McIntosh, Executive Director of SEALKIDS, credits many improvements to Salesforce employees volunteering their time through the Pro Bono Program. They identified how the nonprofit could streamline its workflows, clean up its data, take advantage of features built into Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), and integrate applications from AppExchange.
NSW families now request help through an online application, built with Formstack, that imports datapoints directly into NPSP. The appropriate Family Advocate, assigned geographically, receives an auto-generated notification that a new case has been created. Links to other forms guide the family through submitting any additional documentation. McIntosh is automatically notified when the grant is ready for review and approval.
Once a child begins receiving help, their service provider bills SEALKIDS through a digital invoicing tool that’s part of Salesforce. To pay all of the nonprofit’s third-party service providers, McIntosh generates a single report and pays from that; this saves her time every month.
To fund its growth, SEALKIDS has tapped into the strengths of Nonprofit Cloud to cultivate donor support and enrich those relationships. In-depth profiles help the team stay engaged with hundreds of individual supporters, communicating with them through the channels they prefer. Reports generated using Nonprofit Cloud provide the details that donors want, from the average age of children assisted to evidence of impact based on academic progress.
Expanded Fundraising and Grantmaking Capacity, to Help More Families
Like most nonprofits, SEALKIDS had to cancel the in-person fundraising events it had planned for 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suggestions for alternatives came from the Board of Directors and Pro Bono Salesforce consultant Ryan Kush: Why not host ticketed webinars featuring speakers from the Navy SEAL community?
The nonprofit crowdsourced recommendations for the best webinar setup, registration, and payment platforms from the Power of Us Hub (now the Salesforce.org Hub in the Trailblazer Community). Three weeks later, it welcomed supporters to its first online fundraiser, a live event with Chris Fussell, former Navy SEAL officer and an author of bestselling leadership books. Some 300 attendees participated in that first webinar, inspiring the team to hold more.
Nonprofit Cloud gave SEALKIDS a unified view of its donor base; the leadership understood that a webinar featuring a speaker with a military background would resonate with this audience. That insight reduced the risk involved in trying something new, and SEALKIDS had the technological infrastructure and support to quickly launch something innovative.
SEALKIDS’ first season of webinars culminated in an extremely popular online event: the first public conversation between Captain Robert Phillips and Rear Admiral (Ret.) Scott Moore since 2009—when Moore was part of the team that rescued Phillips after his cargo ship was hijacked and he was held hostage by pirates. Hundreds of people attended the ticketed webinar, which raised $91,000. SEALKIDS continued to engage with attendees after the event, and the results allowed the nonprofit to end the year budget-stable. Pivoting to fundraising webinars gave the team a way to reach more people in more U.S. states at an exponential rate. SEALKIDS doubled its donors in 2020 and almost doubled its fundraising income from the previous year.
Through the increased annual budget and streamlined grantmaking processes, the nonprofit is reaching its goal of supporting more families. In 2021, SEALKIDS provided assistance to 359 children. The Board of Directors has voted to expand its mission to serve families of all U.S. Special Operations Forces, in the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force. This will mean scaling up to support thousands of kids each year.
McIntosh plans to implement Experience Cloud to run a self-service portal that puts families in the driver’s seat. Each household will have one account; parents will log in to manage their family’s data, check the status of grant applications, and get prompts about approaching deadlines or assessments. To fund the expansion, the nonprofit is embarking on a corporate partnership program. Salesforce technology will be essential as the team researches prospects and builds new relationships.
“Salesforce is so reliable in making sure that we can track our goals and meet our goals in a really easy, step-by-step way,” said McIntosh. “SEALKIDS could not operate without Salesforce.”
Incorporated in 2012, SEALKIDS draws on a deep, personal understanding of life in the Naval Special Warfare community to help families navigate stated and unspoken barriers to their children’s success.